Sunday, December 28, 2008

Did Charles Atlas Lift Weights?

There are certain topics that you can bring up on the internet and cause a major stir. Two that come to mind are whether soy or milk are good for you or not. A third is about Charles Atlas' alleged use of weights. It's been a topic that has been balttled out in several forums and like every other nearly pointless internet arguements, it'll never really get solved for sure.

I do think it has some relevancy though. Atlas is still one of the most visible proponents of strength training without weights. Had he used weights regularly, then it really makes him look like a fraud. After all, why use weights if non-apparatus Dynamic Tension worked so well? If the most famous practicioner of weight-free strength training used weights then what does that say about BW in general?

So I think that there is a quite a bit on the line as much then as there is now. I think that just about anyone who has ever tried to strengthen themselves have picked up some kind of weight to get there. I certainly have. Charles Atlas admitted to using pulley's and rudimentary barbells. I abandoned their regular use a while ago. The question is did Atlas?

I honestly think that he did and I premise that thought on how he looked. It's been said that is a weak arguement. I disagree. Certain activities yeild a certain look in athletes. Look at a gymnast. You'll almost never see one without some massive, pumpkin-like shoulders from all the ring work they do. Soccer players usually have modest upper body musculature. Boxers usually have lean, long muscles. Power liftser are very, very burly and bulky. Bodybuilders, well... You get the idea. Different training methods, different looks.

Many weight lifting movements often isolate the muscles and as a result, the lifter gets a more cut physique. Atlas, early on, had a very "cut" physique. Over time, his physique became more willowy and not quite so defined. One thing that I noticed about calisthenics is that they don't isolate muscles and the two pilliars of upper body conditioning, the pull-up/chin-up and the push-up, usually results in a larger upper body in relation to the arms than weights do. Charles Atlas' upper body showed such a transformation. In BW, the legs are usually more svlette than in weight lifting due to the higher volume repetitions. Charles Atlas displayed these kind of legs.

The debate might never be solved but I can assure you of this: Bodyweight isn't a sham. I haven't lifted anything to get my body in shape consistently in several years. It all goes back to my constant travels. I just don't have the luxury of strength training with any kind of weight because I move around so much and traveling light is a fact of life. Still, I get into great shape without them. Look at my pictures or at my last video. I built my strength without weights. It's doable.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Iso's on the Airplane

Well, I’m back on the road again. As I type this I’m returning home from looking at a job in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Many people are quick to mention how detrimental to keeping fit traveling can be. I just laugh. Traveling is a part of my job and one of the circumstances that I have to form my plans for keeping fit. Most of this trip was spent on planes.

You wouldn’t think that you could exercise on a plane. You’d also be wrong. This is where isometric exercises show their value. I think that people dismiss their value since just about every form of exercise has movement. The premise that you can exercise without movement is incomprehensible. I’ll admit that it’s not my first choice for strength training but one of my basic principles here at the Bodyweight Files is that any workout beats no workout at all. Another principle that I have is that you get out of a workout what you put into it. If you don’t believe that isometrics don’t give you a good workout, then you won’t get good workout from them.

With those in mind, I came up with this routine that I’ve been doing on the airplane.

Set #1, legs: I do 6 isometric contractions where I endeavor to push my feet through the floor. I do 2 of these with my feet flat, 2 with my heels raised, and two with my toes raised.

Set #2, Chest and Shoulders: I Spread my knees just enough to get my fists in between. I try to push my knees apart while resisting the motion with my legs. Next, I place my hands at my chest and push my hands together powerfully. Lastly, I push my head and my elbow into the seat and hit my trapezius muscles. Once again, I do 2 of each of these contractions.

Set #3, Arms: I do a simultaneous bicep and triceps contraction by pushing my fist down and resist the motion with the other fist, switching each fist after each contraction. I do these with my fists on my lap and then with my fists at my chest. 4 Contractions total.

Set #4 Forearms and Hands: There is, by far, the most variety of isometrics that you can do here. You could squeeze the dinky pillow that the airline gives you, press your fingertips together against each other, clasp your hands together and try to pull them apart. The options are endless. I try to do 6 of these.

In between each set, I like to do 5 Farmer Burns-style breathing exercises for the abs.

One thing that you’ll find out is that isometrics go a long way in keeping the jet lag away. This 15-20 minute workout will leave you feeling pretty refreshed during the plane ride. You might get some strange stares (I certainly did) but if you’re serious like me, you probably won’t care. You’ve probably found out that there are scores of people always ready to ridicule you for your efforts to stay in shape. Exercising on a plane is no different. Just get into a good zone, focus on your contractions, enjoy the flight, and find pride in the fact that you’ve done what few say is doable: you kept your fit lifestyle while traveling.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

But is it Hard?

There are a multitude of reasons why people don't regularly exercise ranging from constraints of time to physical sickness or injury to lack of motivation. There is one that I'd like to touch on right now and that is the people who don't exercise because it's too hard. I get that a lot lately. A number of my female friends and family want to lose weight and get into shape. The top two areas that they want to buff up are, without fail, their abs and their triceps. The most obvious exercise for both is the push-up. Unfortunately, they can't do them. So, I show a few exercises that will help them get to the point where they can do push-ups and get the conditioning that they want. Along the way, the "H" word pops up... "is it hard... it's too hard!"

Well, of course it's hard! It supposed to be hard! If it was easy, then it really wouldn't be worth doing! Now, I know that for some, some strength training is above their physical capabilities. I know that everyone isn't doing handstand push-ups on T's. That's not what I'm seeing when I hear about how hard an exercise is. I'm seeing people unwilling to take on a physical challenge.

The human body gets compared to machines frequently but it really isn't the best comparission. Machines regularly pushed their limit, break down. Their parts don't regenerate like human parts do. We are in a constant state of rebuilding and we need exercise to direct the rebuilding effort. Proper exercise places controlled amounts of resistance in order to induce stress. By doing this in a precise manner, the metered-out stress improves our ability to overcome physical challenges. It's an ongoing process too. As we become better at handling stress, we must place a little more stress on our body. It's a never ending cycle.

That's why proper exercise can teach a life lesson about any challenge that you face. One thing that I've learned is that challenges are a part of life. They're only going to be so easy. Any attempts to make them easier only serve to make them harder in the bigger picture. Take raising children for example. It's a challenge of your dedication and stubborness to raise well-disciplined kids. Still, if you neglect to do so, then they become enormously difficult raise due to their bad behavior.

Physical training is similar. Sure, I could skip my training. I could get fatter and more sedentary. It's far easier to do than to be well-conditioned. My tolerance to stress would drop though. The physical tasks that I have to do would become harder and would exhaust me much quicker. Eventually, I'd develop dengenrative conditions which might lead to disease which will make my life a slow, painful decline until death takes me. Which is harder in the long run? Thing is, you're in the exact same position as I and everyone else is. What are you going to do?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I Want to Look Like...

We probably couldn't count how many times we've heard people talk about how they want to be big and strong like Arnold. Then, when they realize that he was a combination of gifted genetics and over-the-top (for the time, anyway) steroid use, the gears switch and then it becomes being ripped like Brad Pitt in Fight Club or Bruce Lee. I've seen where this gets to the point of an unhealthy obsession. We often have in our minds what we ideally would look like and it's likely that it looks like a luminary of the fitness world.

Over time, I've come to realize the folly of such thinking. Frankly, I think it could drive you nuts and leave you very unsatisfied. While we all are constructed the same basic manner, there are infinite variations on the theme. Our muscles have insertion and attachment points that vary from one to the next. The number of bundles differs as well as the tendon lengths. Our metabolisms vary and the number of fat cells we have determine how easily we store fat. The size, density and length of our bones has profound effects on how we look.

All of these (and more) variables conspire against you in efforts to look like someone else. Plus, there are tricks that many of these people use to look bigger and more muscular than they really are. You can make your abs look more ripped just by the proper angling. Try this: Look at your abs in a mirror from the front. Now, angle your body slightly and look at yourself in the mirror. Your abs will look more defined with your body at an angle. If you want to make your waist look slimmer, keep your body angled but twist your upper body so that your chest is facing the mirror directly. BAM! You're ready for a fitness magazine or a supplement advertisement! I've just touched on the bare basics. We haven't even gotten into pumping the muscles, dehydration, lighting, hair shaving, body oiling, and computer touch-ups used to make the extraordinary look the way that they do. The bottom line is these people that you want to look like probably don't look the way that you think that they do. You're seeing them in a way that they want you to see them. It may not be the same way that they really are.

So, don't get wrapped up in all of this, "I want to look like..." bullshit. That's what it is: bullshit. Just train for health and strength and everything else will fall into place. You're unique, like everyone else. Strive to look and be the best of yourself.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Proof: My T-Handle Push-up Video!

The G Word!

One word that you haven't seen me write very much on this blog is genetics. I felt no inclination to discuss genetics because I feel like its becoming a favored excuse for people not accomplishing their fitness goals. Apparently, things don't work because your body doesn't allow you.

To me, that isn't what physical culture is about. Its about exceeding limits and expectations. It's about doing what you thought wasn't possible. It's about flipping your genetics the bird. Unfortunately, genetics are everyone's excuse for not getting where they want to be. After all, if it's the body's main blueprint. If the blueprint has a defect built into it, then there's just nothing that we can do about it.

To me, that's just bullshit. If you look at the things that they say are genetic, such as being fat, you'll find that it's not a guaranteed outcome. It's something that the person is predisposed to. In other words, it might be more likely but it's not a definite. So, what you have is a situation where someone may be more sensitive to becoming overweight.

What further shoots this bogus excuse down there are studies that show that you may have control over which of your genes get expressed! So, it's not set in stone after all!

Don't fall victim to this thinking. It's just another negative excuse. Train hard, eat smart, stay focused and believe. At the end of it all, there's only one place this thinking will lead you: to a great body. Sure, there are reasons why some will get it easier than others but in the end, everyone who tries this sincerely will get results.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What gets or keeps you fat?

Weight loss diets tend to break down into two basic strategies of getting the weight off: Calorie reduction or hormone manipulation. Calorie reduction is pretty straight-forward: cut back your daily calorie intake in an effort to burn more calories in a day than you're taking in. The idea is that your body will resort to using it's fat stores (the calories stored in your body) for energy.

The latter is a bit more in-depth. Certain foods provoke different chemical and hormonal responses. The one that interests many with fat loss is insulin release. Insulin is a powerful hormone that triggers the body to draw sugar into the muscle cells and tells the body to hold onto fat. Moderating insulin is crucial for weight loss. This is the theory behind low-carb diets. If you moderate the glycemic load into your body, you'll lose weight.

One thing that I've never understood is why some insist that weight loss has got to be one or the other. Maybe it has to do with businesses being set up sell clients on losing weight one way or the other that fuels this competition. Frankly, it comes down to someone's eating habits. It's entirely possible to get fat on 2000 calories a day if someone's eating a high glycemic load on a regular basis. Subsequently, there are some who eat a 2,600 calorie diet consisting of low carb foods who still manage to lose weight.

The bottom line is that weight loss happens for a number of reasons and are more personal than many would have you believe. If you're having trouble losing weight, then you need to write down EVERYTHING YOU EAT AND DRINK. Then, go to a web site like, check out a few of your day's logs, and take an average of how many calories you're taking in a day. If it isn't very high, then check out the foods that you're eating. If they're a high glycemic index or glycemic load, then you need to change what you're eating.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Not too long ago, someone PM'ed me on Ross Enamait's forum with a couple of questions. The first one was about the T-handles that John Peterson sells. The second was how I trained to be able to support my sister sitting on my chest while doing a nose-to-mat bridge. Looking back on it, I think that my answer was kind of lame. So, I'd like to take the time now to give a more thoughtful response.

Initially, I didn't think that I had much to offer him for an answer. Bridging, like handstand push-ups, seemed to be something that I was naturally good at. All I did was practice bridging on a regular basis. I saw Matt Furey balance two people on his chest in a bridge and I got it in my head that I could do that. Then, one day when my sister was at my house, I asked if she'd be willing to do it. That was it. I didn't work up to it with any weights at all. So, since it came so natural, I just didn't think that there was much to comment on. If I had difficulty and came up with some sort of plan and routine, there would be more to say.

There is more to say. It's the one thing that so many people lack when the work out: belief in themselves. I'm convinced that if I didn't think that I could do it, I wouldn't have been able to. People sell the ability of the mind or positive thinking short. It just sounds too good to be true.

Truth is, your body is capable of far more power than you think it is. Even when you think that you're exerting your full strength, you're still not even close. Your muscles are only performing at a fraction of your total strength (I heard somewhere 20%). Your mind is unconsciously blocking your full muscular potential for emergency use only. Otherwise, you could damage your muscles.

The second thing about your mind that you may not be aware of is that in your brain, the line between what you perceive to be real and what is is very, very thin. I've alluded to this in another post. What this means is that positive visualization and using your imagination to picture what you want will go a long way in helping you achieve your goals. I can tell you for sure that it works both ways. I've talked myself into doing 20 handstand push-ups and 4 T-handle handstand push-ups. I've also talked myself into believing that I could only do 15 handstand push-ups even knowing I'm capable of 20.

So, WorkoutWarrior, this isn't me just telling you and everyone else some mindless, baseless and sappy dreams. There is ample proof out there that your mind is the key to achieving your physical goals. If you think and believe that you can, you ultimately will achieve what you want. It might require some thoughtful planning but you will get there, trust me.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Wrist Problems, Wrist Solutions

Remember the job that I described in my blog post, "The Test"? Well, I jammed my right thumb when I dropped a pitchfork on it, causing it to swell for a few days. While the swelling went down, pain in my wrist didn't subside. Pronation and supination on my right hand has been a pain, say nothing of shoveling!

Sometimes, my family wonder why I read the same book or magazine thing over and over again. Even though I have a good memory, there are things that I will forget about. Small details that often times make all of the difference when I'm working out. One such piece of information that hit me was from "Never Gymless" by Ross Enamait. He relates in his book that hand/wrist injuries forced him out of the fight game but one thing that has helped him immensely was doing push-ups on his fists. He stated he's had no further problems with his wrists since.

This tidbit of information dovetailed in neatly with an article that I read in Fitness Rx where a report that strength training acutally helps joint pain rather than aggravating it. This to me is a no-brainer for the simple reason that I know that your bones sort of float on muscle tension. One muscle pulls one way, another pulls the opposite direction and the result of that pull is proper joint allignment. Still, reading it again was the refresher that I needed.

So, after a few days of doing push-ups on my fists (even doing handstand push-ups on my fists), I'm noticing less and less pain in my right wrists. I'm thankful for that since I'm getting people bugging me for a video of me doing handstand push-ups on T's (I'll get to that, believe me!). Obviously, I'm going to take the lesson of importance of taking care of my wrists to heart. Still, I think that there's something deeper that I've come to realize: There's something to be learned from anything, including the sources you already knew. Refreshers are never a bad thing.

Oh, if you plan on doing push-ups on your fists, make sure that you trim your nails!

Another, very simple idea came my way via that helped me out. So simple, in fact, that I wished that had thought of it myself. Instead of simply resting your weight on your palms while doing push-ups, push your fingers into the ground. This will take some of the pressure off your wrist, give you some strength training for your fingers, and I suspect that it would be a good way to progress to doing fingertip push-ups.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Magic Foods!

Oh, come on! If you read this blog regularly, you must know by now that I don't believe in magic ANYTHING when it comes to getting in shape and staying there. There are things that work better than others but nothing is really a secret. So, I thought that I'd list some of the foods that I think work well to get into shape and stay there. As usual, they are in no particular order of importance:

1. Ginger. I'm going to start with this one since I just can't stop eating or drinking lately. I absolutely adore the taste of ginger. I put it in marinades, I eat crystallized ginger (small amounts) for a treat. I sprinkle it on fruits. I drink hot or iced tea almost every night. I've noticed an improvement in my stomach (I've had stomach problems since birth) and my digestion since I've started drinking the tea. From what I've read, ginger is not only for the stomach but it helps with blood circulation. Obviously, this can improve a host of issues throughout the body. It's no wonder that it's considered so good for overall health in the Eastern part of the world.

2. Quinoa. I got into this stuff about 5 years ago when I hooked up with this Peruvian chick that I eventually married. Quinoa is a traditional "grain" grown in the mountains by the Chechquwa People. It belongs to the same botanical family as swiss chard and spinach. Like it's cousins, Quinoa is a nutritional powerhouse. It's very high in Protein (including the essential amino acid lysine), iron, Phosphorus, magnesium, B Vitamins and more. It's very light and slightly nutty in flavor, making it very versatile. You can cook and eat it like rice or oatmeal. It can take on sweet and savory flavors easily. Since it's a specialty food, it can be kind of pricey (I buy a bunch when I go to Peru where it's dirt-cheap) but it's so dense in nutrients that you wouldn't need to eat a ton at a time to take advantage of it's benefits.

3. Dates. To me, dates are one of those fruits that are so tasty that I can't believe that they're actually good for you. A favorite of the legendary Bernarr McFadden, these soft and sweet little fruits are high in fiber, iron, and potassium. They do have one trade-off however: with almost 70% of their total weight being made up of sugar, these fruits are off the charts on the glycemic index. If you're trying to lose weight, you might be well-suited to steer clear of these until you're a normal weight. I used to eat these before I worked out but I was going for weight gain.

I think that I came up with these foods as personal favorites because, in my opinion, they prove that healthy foods don't have to taste bad. Healthy food is what you make it. It doesn't have to be all steamed broccoli, steamed rice, and steamed chicken. There are a lot of healthy foods out there that can taste great. I'd love to hear what your favorite healthy foods are. Throw them up on the comments section or on the forum!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

New Video Blog, New Forum!

Here's my latest video blog, this time targeting the obliques.

I also started a forum so if you want to discuss something that I wrote or something on your mind, then throw it up and let's talk about it. The link is on the right hand side of the page, below my pic.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Test

If you think about it, questions like, "how much do ya bench? are tests. We use them to compare our progress with our past performance and especially to others' performances. Such things often get in the way of one thing that strength training is all about: making us strong enough to withstand the rigors and abuses of life. NFL Strength trainer Johnny Parker said it best: "Who needs testing? We have 16 tests a year!"

My last job put my training to the test. I'm cleaned out a tank at a wastewater plant called a digester. It was full of miscellanous trash and massive chunks of grease that could only come out by hand. I pulled out around 4 tons of refuse, by hand, and loaded it into 55 gallon drums attached to a crane truck per day. It was further complicated by the 3 to 1 pitched floor. It's difficult to lift objects when the ground is slipppery, sloped and therefore unstable. If there was a place that would test my training, 8-10 hours a day of this was it.

I'd be lying if I told you that I didn't suffer any pain on this job. One day, I slipped, fell and broke my fall with my outstretched right hand. This jammed my shoulder blade funny and left me with a stinging pain the rest of the day. Several weeks later, I lunged a pitchfork out one handed to get some extra distance on my throw. When I went to catch it with my right hand, the handle hit the base of my thumb, causing it to bruise, swell, and left my wrist feeling painfully weak for a while afterwards.

Things like that you can't really train for though. What was most amazing to me was in spite of the constant shoveling and the akward lifts that I did for weeks on end, I had no pain or weakness from the work. My lower back never ached after work. My legs held up just fine. My shoulders took everything that I threw at them.

I can attribute the lack of lower back pain to getting myself to a point where I could do a full, butt to heels squat. That way, I lifted with my legs and not my back. I also have developed a lot of strength in my glutes and my abs which protects my back when I'm lifting. One leg exercise that I'm grateful that I throw in from time-to-time is the Bulgarian split squat. I do it without the weight and often times on a BOSU ball. It very closely mimicks the way I lifted things on the sloped floor.

In essense, The constant changing up of exercises and hitting my muscles from different angles, the increase range of motion that I've aquired, and the serious core training is what got me through this nasty-difficult job. That's what strength training should be about. It also validates what some tell me isn't true: I can get strong on Bodyweight alone.

Monday, November 3, 2008

More on the Towel Pull-Up

The towel grip pull-up video blog is easily the fan-favorite post here at the Bodyweight Files. I started doing that pull-up back in March, 2007. I was anxious to throw up the video blog last February with the arrival of the Perfect Pullup because I knew there was merit of supinating in the pull-up but I didn't see the need to spend $100 to get that training effect. I'm just starting to see it demonstrated in other places but, interestingly, without that supination.

For me, this pull-up is a child of necessity. I travel and good pull-up places can be hard to come by. I thought of it at home but I realized that as long as I had something sturdy above my head to wrap something like a towel around, I could do pull-ups, even if I couldn't get my hands around it. Since I'm crunched on time, this pull-up's difficulty, forearm and grip working qualities covers a lot of ground in a little time.

One thing that I've noticed in my improvisation with this pull-up is that what you're gripping makes a noticeable difference in the ease or difficulty of the pull-up. Here are a few points on the subject:

1. Thickness of the object. The easiest object for this pull-up is the object that is the same thickness of your grip when your thumb overlaps your pointer finger's nail. Anything thicker or thinner than this makes the pull-up more difficult.

2. Does the object have natural spring to it? I've done this pull-up with lifting straps and lay-flat fire hoses. both of these objects want to spring back to their naturally-flat shape so I have to squeeze more intensely to do the pull-up. Along those lines, rope that isn't tightly twisted or braided is more difficult because you have to compress it more to get a good grip on it.

3. Smoothness. Twisted natural rope is far easier material for doing this pull-up than a braided, synthetic. I tried this pull-up with a bunch of braided nylon rope and I was stunned by how difficult that it was (it was also loosely braided, which didn't help either).

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Get Yourself Mentally Ready to Get Fit!

In my social circle of friends and family, it seems like I'm a physically-fit oasis in a desert of the out of shape who want to get in shape. They all try but never seem to get there. One thing that I am good at is solving problems so I'm also good at identifing them. Nearly every single time they all have problems with their attitudes and outlooks on how to get physically fit. To put it quite simply, it's in their minds as much as it is in their bodies.

I think that there are outlooks that I have about fitness that keep me in shape. Here are a few, in no particular order, that make all of the difference between succeeding and failing.

1. Thinking about what I eat before I eat it. Whenever I eat anything, I always ask myself if what I'm eating is good for me or not. It's always on my mind. That's not to say that I don't eat bad foods but I'm cognizant of of what I'm doing. I really don't think that many people do that. They just go off what they feel like eating and throw it into their mouth without a moment of consideration as to if it's good for them or not.

2. Making Exercise a Priority. For a lot of the people around me, things like gossip and reality shows, cocktail hours, video games, etc are a better use of 30 minutes than working out. Is it any wonder things never get done when Dancing with the Stars gets priority over push-ups? I agree with Matt Furey when he said that daily exercise is just as important as brushing your teeth or taking a shower. Remember what "ChickenTuna" mentioned about those two activities? You may not like to work out any more than you like to brush your teeth and take a shower but everyone loves the results.

3. Believe that you can. There is a very thin line in your mind between what you perceive to be true and what is. This is why the technique of positive visualization gets used by such a wide variety of people from professional athletes to business executives to self defense instructors. It will work for you too. You can talk yourself into or out of anything. I've told myself that I could do Handstand Push-ups on T's and eventually, I did! I've also convinced myself I could only do 15 handstand push-ups when I know for a fact that I can do 20. It's a known fact that your muscles only contract at a fraction of their power even when you think that you are doing all that you think that you can. In other words, you're capable of more. BELIEVE!

4. Making Time. This one has had some help from outside sources for sure. You don't need an hour or even hours of time to get yourself into shape. I usually don't work out for more than one hour a day. Still, I get into great shape. My viewpoint on time relates to my belief in being positive. I don't look at my limited time and say that I can't work out. I try to find the way to make the time that I have work best for me. Trust me: you don't need much more than 20-30 minutes a day of exercise. If you don't believe me, then let me know. I guarantee that I can give you a 25 minute workout that will whoop your ass.

5. Focus. I've been approached by a few of my loved ones who believe that if they could watch TV while walking on a treadmill/elliptical/whatever for two hours, then they could get into great shape. I didn't have the heart or the bad manners (at the time) to tell them that is ridiculous. Science is just starting to prove that focused attention on a muscle makes the muscle stronger. So, distractions like television aren't going to help in the long run. The truth is that the more you think into your resisted movements, the more successful you'll become at getting into great shape.

I hope that I've impressed on you that physical fitness is more than just a physical endeavour. It is every bit an emotional and mental exercise. The sooner you realize and embrace this, the more successful you'll be at achieving your goals.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Drink That's Killing You?

Would you drink a fluid that could clean rust off of metal? That's a serious question. Would you grab your can of WD-40, or any other rust cleaner, off your work bench and drink it? While you're thinking about that, would you drink a fluid that (with electricity) you could use to corrode titanium? What about drinking a waste product of your body, such as urine? What about drinking spermicide? What if you drank a liquid that is everything that I just described?

Well, one of America's most beloved drinks is all of the above. That beverage is soda! I've never enjoyed soda, even when I was a kid. I don't like how it tastes or how it feels in my mouth. Most of all, I hate how lousy it makes me feel after I drink it.

My instincts serve me well too. In the past year or so, I've found out all of those interesting things that soda can do. In addition to all these nasty things, this is the way that many people load several hundred calories into their bodies, often times without even realizing it. Soda's loaded with some serious amounts of sugar.

He might be a bit of a nutcase, but Mike Brown brought up an interesting point. The fizz in soda is carbon dioxide. That happens to be the same gas that your body gets rid of every time you exhale. In other words, it's a waste product that you body actively tries to get rid of in order to function properly. What do you think you're doing to yourself when you throw it back in? Oh, it also forms an acid. Remember what happens to a tooth that's placed in soda for a few days? Yeah, it dissolves. That kind of takes the mystery out of why we're having problems with osteoporosis, doesn't it?

Plus, soda has some other lovely characteristics. A mentor of mine growing up told me that a good way to get the rust off of a shotgun that my dad let me borrow was to clean it with coke. It didn't work too bad either. It must be that phosphoric acid in the soda. That same acid is what can corrode titanium. If you pass an electric current through soda and dip titanium into it, it will permanently rust the nearly-impervious wonder metal.

Oh, and they just found out that regular soda drinkers do have a lower sperm count.

If you want to do yourself a favor for your health, cut your soda drinking back dramatically. It's a nasty drink that just wrecks your body over time and it really doesn't have any redeeming qualities to it. Seriously, if you want to get in great shape, then stop drinking it!

Friday, October 24, 2008

What Are the Best Ab Exercises?

Most of our ab exercises involve the abs moving either our upper body or lower body in an up-down motion. Lately, I've read a couple of things that made me think a bit more about what might be the best way to train the abs. Or, at the very least, ways that we don't train our abs but should be.

Recently, I read articles that stated that weight belts aren't effective at protecting the lower back from lifting injuries. One of the articles came out point blank and said that you have a weight belt on your body already: it's called your abdominal muscles. It stated that if you needed a weight belt, then you need to train your abs better.

I think there's a hole exists in some people's ab training: training our abs to contract powerfully enough to protect the lower back from injuries when doing intense work, be it our jobs or our exercise. Abs are often trained by movement but the act of locking the abs so that movement doesn't occur in the core have very legitimate real-world carry-over. It also explains why the humble push-up is such a good ab-trainer. Ab isometrics, l-sits, and ab wheel work also hits the abs powerfully in this exact manner.

Another use that doesn't get mentioned much is the role that the core should play in your breathing. I don't understand how this gets missed by people who understand how fat gets burned off your body. In order to burn fat, you have to have oxygen present. What happens if you're not getting enough oxygen into your bloodstream? You're not losing fat as fast. I've worked out with several overweight people and the ones who lost quickly are the ones who are deep, diaphragm breathers. Shallow, chest-breathers struggle. Vince Gironda believed heavily in the power of deep breathing during training. Matt Furey said it best on this topic: if you can't be heard breathing from another room while training, then you're not breathing deeply enough.

So, give this some thought when you train. Make sure that you're not getting pidgeon-holed in your ab training. Those muscles do a lot of things for your body and make sure that your training is hitting them all.

Friday, October 17, 2008


Ithasn't been a great few weeks for my body. I was in Bakersfield, California for a week or so. I was supposed to be there for longer until I did something stupid. I put my fingers of my left hand (I'm left-handed) in a pneumatic knife valve that I thought was shut off. Well, IT WASN'T! I ended up getting three of my fingers caught/crushed in it. I was lucky that I didn't lose them. Actually, I didn't even break any bones! I wasn't so lucky a day later when I dropped a 150 lbs pump part on one of them. That severely limited my exercise because anything that caused my heart to start pumping hard would make my fingers feel like they were hit with a hammer. On the upside, I did get to go home.

That injury is almost recovered and now I'm dealing with another problem. I tossed and turned all night in my sleep, ending up on my side, sleeping on my right arm. I woke up with a bad knot just below my shoulder blade. It's brutally painful and it got worse when I fell at work, breaking the fall with THAT ARM! It's starting to come back but I'm still irritated by it.

I've reprogrammed my mind to such a degree that I feel that I'm being lazy when I don't work out. It's a daily routine. It feels like I forgot to brush my teeth or taking a shower. Things happen, I suppose.

It did teach me some things though. Even when I got to a point where I could exercise, I had to work around my aches, pains, and injuries. I'm used to more intense training and doing less felt wrong. It brought me back to what I've told so many others before: anything is better than nothing. Now, I may not like dropping my thumbs out of pull-ups but with a compromised grip, it was the only way that I could do them. It was better than no pull-ups at all.

I just have to remember to adapt and maintain. It's as much about maintaining a healthy lifestyle and not getting stuck in a groove.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"Eat Boring and Have an Exciting Body"

That title is a line that I wish that I had thought of. Anyone who cruises around must have heard of "ChickenTuna". She's the super-ripped 40 year old woman who came up with that line. It's funny how sometimes you hear something that takes on a relevancey that you didn't forsee when you hear it.

What I 'm getting at is a conversation that I had with a couple of co-workers while working out here in California. Someone brought in several boxes of doughnuts for everyone on the job site. Of course, I politely declined while others indulged. This triggered a conversation about eating right versus eating what you want to eat. One of my co-workers talked about how unexciting life if you don't eat stuff like doughnuts, smoke or drink. Then, there's no enjoyment in life.


Sure I enjoy food. I enjoy junk food, whiskey, and a cigar now and then. That doesn't bring me much enjoyment later. It just slows me down in the short term and it puts me a step backwards in the long term. I'll tell you what I do enjoy more.

1. I enjoy that I can get done a day's work without feeling like a corpse.

2. I enjoy playing with my 4 year old godson for as long as I please.

3. I enjoy that my arm muscles finally fill out shirt sleeves and my waist barely filling 30" jeans.

4. I enjoy women checking out my body.

5. I enjoy biking, Brazilian Jui Jitsu, hiking, swimming, etc

Like I said, I enjoy cheating a little here and there but I'm cognizent of the consequences. Frankly, they're just not worth it to me. It slows me down and sometimes makes me feel sick. Over time, I know where over-indulgence will lead me.

1. Overweight.

2. Lacking Energy.

3. Achy and sore all of the time.

4. Sick with a host of dengerative illnesses.

I have to ask those who think that smoking, drinking, and eating junk food is living: How can it be living if it slowly kills you? There is more to life than what we put into it to get enjoyment. Ultimately, all of that exciting eating will have to stop. Otherwise, there are steep consequences to pay. In the meantime, asking the question, "is this good for my body?" whenever we eat is a big step forward in enjoying the more viscral pleasures of being fit: an exciting body.

Do We Need to Lift Weights to Be Functionally Strong?

Not too long ago, a guy named Brent asked me a question that really got me thinking a bit. At the time, I injured my fingers and I didn't feel like responding to his post in depth because typing was difficult. So, now that my left hand is more functional, I feel compelled to give his question a more thoughtful response.

For a re-cap, read this:

Pavel covered some very insightful ideas about strength in his book "The Naked Warrior." One such idea of developing strength as a skill. In other words, you cultivate and generate it not by merely making your muscles stronger but learning to use them in a coordinated manner. This is how skinny boxers can generate such bruising KO power or pudgy guys like Babe Ruth could crush hundreds of home runs. They know how to use their muscles in a specific manner that generates power all out of proportion to their physical appearances.

So, it stands to reason that doing some lifting like Brent suggests might be beneficial. It might be too. I think that it comes down to personal preference and the physical demands that your life puts on you. If you're doing competitive lifting, then of course lifting is necessary. It's the same if you were boxing. If you want to learn to throw powerful strikes, then you need to practice them.

In my experience and with my job, I'm rarely lifting anything heavier than my own bodyweight. On the other hand, I'm frequently lifting a moderately heavy object several times. I have to lift and stack things like bags of clay, lime or concrete. I lift and carry 50' of 1.5" hydraulic hoses or cans of diesel. I frequently roll, carry, or drag hoses from 1.5" up to 6" (the 6" hoses really suck to drag, BTW) in diameter and 25-50' long. None of them weight more than I do. The only thing that I lift that comes close to my bodyweight is a 6" hydraulic submersible pump that weighs in at around 170 lbs. Then again, really shouldn't be carrying that anyway.

Most bodyweight exercises don't have you moving your full bodyweight anyway. Still, the action of moving even 128 lbs (me doing a normal push-up) several times still has excellent carry-over to real life. Moderate load moved several times over. It certainly works for me.

Still, I'm not going to verbally spank anyone for it. I'd rather you did what interests you rather than doing nothing at all. I admit that I had an urge to design and build my own sandbag. It looks like an interesting form of training. I just know for a fact that you don't need to lift to get strength that will carry over into the real world.

Oh, one other thing. TD, are you still reading? I haven't heard from you in a while and I hope you're doing well!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

T Handles VS Rings... Which makes the Push-Up Harder?

I blogged several months ago about devices and gadgets that I put my hands on to make push-ups harder. I also talked about this in a forum and I stated that I believed that rings could make the push-up harder than the T's. There was some friendly doubts about my statement and I figured that after working with both some more, it's a good time to revisit the topic.

I'll come right out and say it: superiority of one over another is murky. One problem is how each piece of equipment is set up. I built both my rings and my T's. The level of difficulty of the rings depends on how far apart you space them. The farther they are away, the harder they get. With T's, the length of the stilt and the width of the foot makes a huge difference. The higher the stilt, the harder it is. the wider the foot, the easier the push-up becomes. So, it's hard to deduce which is harder just by design.

What I think makes one easier than the other is what you're trying to work on. T's require a tremendous amount of grip strength in order to stabilize the movement. So, these are definitely superior for building up your grip, forearms, biceps and triceps. I think that these are a bit more difficult when it comes to core stabilization as well than the rings are.

Where Rings aren't as hard on the arms, they're a bear for the shoulders and the chest. I notice that they're noticeably harder on the chest muscles than the T's are, especially if you do them Atlas style. What's interesting is that if you count reps as an indicator of which one is harder, then rings are harder for me. I can do more push-ups on the T's than I can on the rings.

So, what are you looking for in your workout? Where are your weak points? That will determine which is harder. If you want to favor your arms over your chest, go with the T's. If you want to challenge your chest and shoulders, do the rings.

Friday, October 3, 2008

What is Modern Life Doing To Us?

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about Craig Weller's excellent article about full-range squatting. His conclusion in the article was that most of us can't squat full-range (or "third world" as he calls it) because we sit down so much that we lose that range of motion. He also points out how most children easily squat all the way down. After all, how easy is it to get a child to sit down for any length of time? That may not be a bad thing after all.

Obviously, our modern habits have robbed us of much of our physical abilities. As I've been walking around at work lately, I notice how much our inactivity can cost strength in other body parts. The most obvious example was in my ankles (I also blogged about this). I noticed it at the beginning of the summer when I was working at a landfill. One thing about landfills is that they are hilly. If you ever go to one, you'll notice that you spend a hefty chunk of time going up and down hills all day. Obviously, my calf size and strength improved.

Then I left that job, spent some time on flat ground, and now I'm at a job working on cleaning an above-ground tank. I'm constantly going up and down stairs. I again notice more defined calves. Think about something: How often do people avoid any sort incline like it was a plague? How many of us complain about calf development?

Obviously, exercise can help with this problem but I think that sort of misses the bigger picture. We can only exercise so much per day. I think that we need to eschew some of the things that make life easier for the sake of keeping our bodies more fit. Our bodies run contrary to machines because they need to move in order to stay in top order. So, the more movement that we can sneak into our daily lives, the better off that we'll be. If we could make an effort to squat down low to pick something up then we might find that our backs don't hurt nearly as often. Maybe we wouldn't be so winded and sore walking up a hill if we quit using elevators so damn much. There's nothing wrong and a lot right about doing some things in a more primative manner.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Healthy Booze?

In case you didn't know, Pierini, a regular around some fitness-oriented boards, started up an excellent blog about his efforts to stay in shape. One that I really like was his post entitled, "No Thanks, I'm an Athlete". This is his response to offers of alcohol that he subsequently refuses. I can relate to this situation. I can't recollect how many times in my short life that I've come across the odd look for refusing a drink.

I notice a trend occurring in many of the fitness magazines: Antioxidant cocktails. You know, using things like avocado, pomegranate, blueberry, etc to make booze more healthy. Then there's the health benefits of beer and wine. So, obviously this makes drinking healthy?

I don't think so. One of the most fascinating organs in your body has got to be your liver. It's the second largest organ in your body (after your skin), it can fulfill its functions at a third capacity (Maybe this is why we can drink like fish and still live?), if a section of it is removed, it is the only internal organ that will regenerate itself. We commonly think of it as a mere filter and sewage system for our blood (which it is). It has another key role that many don't know about: It squirts enzymes into the small intestine that begin the fat and carbohyrate metabolism process (yes, your gall bladder does some of this too but this is why you can survive without your gall bladder). It's also believed that it removes lactic acid build-up in your blood stream, giving you that, "second wind".

We all know that alcohol damages your liver. Now do you realize why drinking can make you gain weight or decrease your athletic performance? You're depleting your body's ability to use the food energy that you're taking in. If you can't use it, then you STORE IT... AS FAT! Hence the reason why even skinny people who drink a lot often have a roll of fat around their liver.

Now, there is a lot of junk advice out there about what you should or shouldn't eat or drink. If you ever suspect that you may have come across such advice but aren't sure, then try this:

1. Consume the suspect food or drink.
2. Wait 1-2 hours.

If you feel slow (like you ate cement) or held back from your normal performance, then it's bad for you. Don't let science tell you otherwise. You don't need science to tell you what is good or bad for your body. If you doubt what I say about that pomegranate mojito, then try this test and get back to me. Otherwise, listen to Pierini and I. Oh, and check out his blog when you get a chance.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Thoughts on BW-Based Strength training

I think that one of the reasons why some people don't understand why they can get strong with Bodyweight-based strength training is because they are familiar with only one way of getting strong: Adding weight to their body. This works by increasing the gravitational pull on their body and forcing the muscles to contract harder. Obviously, there isn't a strength training method proven build muscle than weight training. That doesn't mean that other ways don't work at all.

Calisthenics work by using a combination of your body's weight (and gravitational pull) and decreasing your leverage during the movement. Now, as you get better and do more reps, the solution to making the exercise doesn't have to be adding more weight. You could change the height of certain body parts and add weight. For example, if push-ups are getting too easy, simply put your feet on a chair. Plus, it changes the leverage. Now you'll have to use your serratus muscles more on the movement.

Then there's always adding instability to the movement. Instead of putting your feet on a chair, you could put them on a basketball. Or, if you had two balls, do push-ups with your hands on each ball. Dip down low between the balls too. That will complicate things.

Or, you could eliminate the movement all together and do an isometric hold. That isn't as easy as it sounds. If it is, refer back to the previous paragraph and do it on an unstable footing. You could hold this position for a minute or your could tense your muscles as hard as you can and hold the contraction for 10 seconds while exhaling.

Then you could add other moves to the push-up. You could do a plyometric clapping push-up. If that's too much then you could do an alligator push-up, bringing your knee to your elbow. Have you ever heard of 8 count bodybuilders or burpees?

Now, some of this information may be repetetive but just remember that there are more ways to get strong than just by weight lifting. Sure, gyms are great to go to but I've seen too many people's quest for fitness get screwed up because they were dependant on the gym in order to get in shape. Then I've seen people use not being able to get to a gym as an exuse for getting out of going.

This is why I think that BW training has its advantages over weight-based strength training. You're not dependant on much of anything or a specific place. You've always got the ability to work out, no matter what setting that you're in. You've got the means so you never have an exuse. It's the most verastile strength training methodology out there. That's why I'm such a big fan of it.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Should we try to get bigger?

I believe that in the past that I’ve expressed my admiration for Richard Blackman and the good work that he does for people. I am in awe of his awesome discipline and his positive attitude that he displays as his amazing physicality in his youtube clips. Granted that I don’t agree with a lot of what he preaches, such has his fruitarian and liquidarian diets, but I still respect his ability to stick to his principles.

One of the things that I initially disagreed with was on his FAQ section of his website. The last question on the page was about a bulking diet for bodybuilding. He refused to do that kind of work because he believes that nature has a blueprint and that we shouldn’t stray from it.

Now, my number one fitness goal last years was to bring myself from 157 lbs up to 180 lbs, which I succeeded at doing. I even got myself up to 187 lbs before dropping to my current 175 lbs. Subsequently, many have asked me about how I did it and I’ve written several blogs on the topic. So, on the surface it would appear that I would disagree with Mr. Blackman’s statement about increasing muscle mass.

Still, it got me thinking about my goals. Did I go beyond what I was natural for my body to carry? Is it right and healthy to bring my bodyweight up? Is it right for you to do so? What I arrived at was that at 187 lbs, I was still trim, muscular, and had a 30” six pack waist. The only problem was that I was a bit slow. My upper body was a bit unwieldy. That’s why I allowed my weight to drop.

I went all the way down to 168 lbs. Then, I noticed something: I had weakness in my lower back that disappeared when I got back up to 175 lbs. Even now, my weight will yo-yo a bit and when I get near that 170 lbs threshold, I notice lower back weakness that leads to pain. What I realize is that even though my body might drop down to the low 160’s if I don’t maintain a higher calorie diet. I feel that 175-180 lbs is probably ideal for me, even if nature may not say so.

Nature may not be perfect. It’s random and it allow in it flaws. Nothing is designed to last forever. Weakness is inherit in nature. It’s in human nature to manipulate to suit our needs. I feel that nature may have designed me to be thin and to have a weaker lower back. I don’t like that and I reject it.

What I think that I could take from this pondering of Mr Blackman’s opinion is a sense of MODERATION. I’m obviously not made to be over 185 lbs. Doing so serves no purpose other than to satisfy some carnal urge that doesn’t amount to anything useful in my pursuit of health and strength. You don’t need me to tell you that there is a so much of that in the fitness world. So, if muscle-making is your goal, then make sure that you’re doing it for the right reasons.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Improving My Ab Wheel Roll-outs

A few months ago, after I built my T's, I had this urge to try what some would (and have) called insane: I wanted to do handstand push-ups on my T's. I tried to do some but I quickly realized that I didn't have the core and glute strength yet to pull these off. You need quite bit of core tension to do handstand push-ups. The need for core stabilization goes way up when you do them on T's.

So, after some thinking, I concluded that the core exercise that would best train me for the handstand push-up on the T's would be ab wheel roll-outs. So, I resolved to throw more of these into my workout. While I was at it, I wanted to improve my ab wheel work. Easier to said than done. Ab wheels are bulky and don't travel well.

So, I found worked with some other exercises that didn't need more equipment and were good stepping stones up to the ab wheel roll-outs. Three exercises came to mind that worked really well:

1. The Inchworm. This looks a lot like the ab roll-outs without the wheel. You simply lean down, put your hands on the floor, and walk yourself outward as far as you can. When you get out as far as you can handle, hold the position for as long as you can. Afterwards, you can either walk your feet up to your hands or walk your hands back to the start position. I prefer the latter.

2. Superman push-ups. This one is pretty well known. In case you don't know it, lay on the floor with your arms outstretched. Push your hands and feet against the floor and lift your body off the ground and lower yourself back down. That's one rep.

3. Straight bridge. Find two chairs of equal height. Place them far enough apart so one chair can support your head and the other can support your feet. Lay between the chairs for as long as you can. Moving the chairs closer together makes the exercise easier.

Once I got home, I worked the ab wheel more. These supplemental exercises really helped out how low I could go with the ab wheel. Now, I'm getting my body parallel to the ground and about a foot off of it. What I've found is that you can't rush this exercise. You've just got to be content with what you can get. If you try to push it, you could hurt yourself.

It all worked out. I can crack out 4 handstand push-ups on the T's. I'm not advising you to try these out. If you're not careful and prepared, your neck could pay the price. The ab wheel work is worthwhile though, even if you have no intentions of trying these insane handstand push-ups.

"I'm not saying that you should do this,
It's just what I do.
I take responsibility for my actions,

Saturday, September 13, 2008

My Favorite Grip Calisthenics

Sure, we love a well-conditioned body for the sake of impressing others but usually the only way that you have to impress others with your physicality by actual physical contact is your hands. When we shake someone’s hand and we receive a powerful pinch from their hands, then we get the message: This is a powerful person.

While I talk about many different manners of strength training without apparatus, by the title of my blog you can tell that I like calisthenics most of all. You’d be correct in that assumption. So, if you want to build a powerful grip, here are the calisthenics that I like the most for building powerful hands and grip:

1. Rope Climbing! I don’t do this one as much as I’d like to do since having a high spot to hang a rope is often a luxury. That may be the case with you too. I had a job site with a spot where I could hang my climbing rope. After just two weeks, the guys in my Brazilian Jui Jitsu class couldn’t help but notice the grip that I had. As far as I’m concerned, rope climbing is the best exercise to improve your grip strength. It’s the ultimate exercise to fuse mind and body and for good reason: If your grip slips, you’re in deep shit!

You may think that you don’t have a high enough spot do rope climbing but in reality, if you have even 8 feet of height then you can do some rope work. Simply start out sitting on the ground and climb up and down. Where does it say that you have to climb from a high spot anyway? It may not look very impressive but you’ll still get the work that you’re looking for.

2. Push-ups on T’s! This is the best way to integrate grip work into push-ups. If you notice one thing about calisthenics that work the grip, they’re mostly pulling movements. The T’s add a lot of instability and you have to be able to contract your forearms powerfully in order to stabilize yourself while doing the push-ups. These push-ups will improve your pull-up and chin-up rep count as well.

3. Towel Pull-ups! For grip work, this is one of the hardest pull-ups on your forearms. My video blog covering the towel pull-up is one of the favorite entries on my blog. One thing that makes a huge difference in the ease or the difficulty of this exercise is what you grip and how thick it is. I’ve used towels, lifting straps, fire hoses, twisted manila rope, and braided nylon rope. An object that you can grip and have your thumb and fingers together is generally easier. Synthetic materials are usually more slippery and thus more difficult. Straps and hoses can be harder because you may have to fold them in half to get a decent grip on them. Their tendency to spring back to shape adds more challenge to your grip. This is my favorite pull-up and grip conditioning is a big reason why it is so.

4. Fingertip Push-ups! All of these calisthenics deal with griping. This exercise is an excellent push-up to superset with a girp workout. It strengthens the fingers and forearms. I love to superset these with rope climbing. This will make your forearms burn like you’d scarcely believe! If you have a hard time with these, you could always do them on your knees rather than your feet. Or, you could do them elevated and bring your body to your hands (not below them, that’s an Atlas push-up).

Friday, September 12, 2008

An Arm Workout For Nate

Nathan is a friend of mine who is working on putting some lean muscle mass onto his body. He started out as a 5'11" 15 year old with only 90 lbs of muscle on his body. Now, he's up 35 lbs and looking to go another 30 before he's done. His progress is remarkable frankly. He's cranking out pull-ups at a rate that is inspiring (and motivating). He talked to me last night and asked about a pull-up and push-up based arm workout plan.

Nate, here's what I've got for you...

Now, I've never been one for giving out specific routines. I feel that being your own trainer and taking your own wants and needs into consideration is paramount. Still, I'll give you a routines and I'll give you some ideas. Feel free to change based on your needs.

I like to divide my workouts into two sets: A calisthenics set and a self-resistance and isometric set. The former will work your muscles as a team and you use the latter to zoom in on specific muscle groups. Plus, you get the benefit of working at a higher intensity, low volume manner and a slightly higher volume, lower intensity all in one workout. So, not only are you working from many different angles but you're conditioning slow and fast twitch fibers in one workout.

Now, for the Calisthenics, I like to use several different push-ups and chin-ups/pull-ups, each set at 30-40 percent of my max reps (change the rep numbers at your leisure. I'm just guessing at what you might be able to do). While this may not seem like much, when you're doing 6 exercises back to back, it's very demanding. Take as little of a break as possible between each set. For zeroing in on your arms, Nate, I like this set:

Close Grip Chin-ups, 7 reps
Diamond/triceps push-ups, 15 reps
Close Grip Pull-ups, 7 reps
pike push-ups, 7 reps
towel pull-ups, 7 reps
T handle Push-ups, 20 reps

This will give you a very wide range of angles in a short, intense period of time. Rest, at most, 5 deep breaths between sets. If you don't need the rest, don't take it.

Now, onto the next set...

I like to start with either a DVR or DSR for the triceps or biceps. Do 5 movements at maximum tension. Now, it's time for isometrics. I've always liked the milo and I also like doing it with different hand positioning. You can do this with the fists as taught by John Peterson or you can do them with your hands clasped together as well. I do both. After doing the Milo, do another DVR or DSR for the part of the upper arm that you didn't do on the first set. So, this superset would look like this:

Wrist-Twist triceps DVR, 5 reps max tension
Milo w/fists, all 6 positions
One Arm Chin-ups DVR, 5 reps max tension

Now, follow this up with the calisthenics superset.

After the second set of Calisthenics, I like to do another set of DVR/DSR and Isometrics, switching it up again, to look like this:

Triceps Knife Hands, 5 reps max tension
Milo w/ hands clasped together, all 6 positions
Self resistance bicep curls, 5 reps max tension

Do the Calisthenics set a third time, if you can.

This workout should take you 35 minutes. If you want to increase the intensity of the workout, then work only the tricps in the first DSR/DVR/isometric set and only the biceps in the next set. You can do the milo still or you could do powerflexes. It's up to you. This is very hard though. I'd try it the way I laid it out to you for now.

Anyway, Nate, I hope this helps you out in getting where you need to go. If you ever have questions for me, I'm always here for you. That goes for everyone else out there reading this blog. Keep up the hard work, stay positive and think strong!

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Third World Squat!

I read a fantastic article by one Craig Weller about what he refered to as the "third world squat" in a great article on T-Nation. What he calls the third world squat is nothing more than a rock-bottom squat. Your knees should be in your armpits and your weight on your heels.

Unfortunately, many (most?) people can't do this. I've heard complaints about improper leverage that doesn't allow them to do this. I disagree. If you watch most children, they can and do this squat with veritable ease. That is, until they start sitting down in chairs too much. Then before they know it, they're an adult rationalizing why they can't do one anymore.

After reading this article, I rapidly switched gears and got myself doing a full range, third world squat. It wasn't terribley hard. Mr. Weller has some great ways to get you going on this move. I also had a few other things that I tried to get myself down.

1. Stretching My fascia. For those who don't know, this is a thin membrane that covers your muscles. Each muscle isn't individually shrink-wrapped though. Several are covered by the same fascia. For our application, stretching out the fascia that connects the muscles of the back line can help out immensely when doing squats. Find a hard rubber ball, sit down, and roll the ball under the arch of the foot while pressing firmly, but not painfully, for 30 seconds for each foot.

2. DVR Squats. Tense all of your leg muscles while lowering yourself down as far as possible. Don't push yourself too much. Go down a comfortable distance for 5-7 reps. Follow up with some normal speed squats.

As I previously mentioned, I don't have chronic back pain but I haven't had any since I mastered this move. I firmly believe that this is another key for a pain-free back. After all, the lower you go, the more you can use your legs to lift an object off the ground rather than your back.

Read the article here, it's well worth your time....

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

But I can only do half of a Push-up!

I've heard several people say something to this effect lately. Apparently, the all-or-nothing attitude towards specific exercises is pretty pervasive out there. Frankly, I don't understand or agree with it. Granted I can get pretty dogmatic about training but I just don't see the point in being that strict about an exercise.

If someone can only do half of a push-up, isn't that better than no push-up at all? When you're just getting started, anything is better than nothing and if you're weak, then you can build strength doing half push-ups. Don't get stuck on what can't do; focus on what you can do. Then, work from there.

Besides, there comes times in life where you may be physically limited to doing less that what you're accustomed to. I recall a few years ago that I fell and hit my elbow hard on the way down, swelling my right elbow up grotesquely. I found out that while I couldn't go full-range on normal push-ups, I could go wide-handed and get almost all of the way down on that push-up. It may not be the most intense push-up that I ever did but it still kept me in good shape. It was sure as hell better than no push-ups.

There is no lawbook to exercise that tells you that you can't modify an exercise to suit your physical needs. Don't ever feel like you can't tailor and trim according to your body's needs.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

More on Gaining Mass

I've gotten a lot of interest about my muscle gain odessy that I went through last year. For those who don't recall, my New Year's resolution for 2007 was to bring myself from 157 lbs up to 180 lbs. To be fair, I normally weighed 162 lbs but by at the end of December, 2006 I dropped down to 157 lbs. I knew it would be difficult to gain weight because in the past I could eat just about anything that I wanted and not gain a single pound (I could eat a quart of ice cream in one sitting and my weight doesn't budge).

I'm going to level with you: Diet is probably more a part of muscle gain than the exercises are. I firmly believe that for hard-gainers, gaining muscle is as hard as losing fat for most others. It requires very disciplined eating. I gained the muscle by eating a high protein and high fat diet.

The fat is the important part. While it's true that you build muscle with protein, you need the fat to tell your body to start making muscle in the first place. Your hormones are responsible for dong that and they are fat-based compounds. Read Vince Gironda's writings. He had his trainees drinking vast quantities of milk, cream, eating eggs (Yolks included!!!) and steak. He followed the same regimen and he was the guy who popularized the ripped look in bodybuilding. This is also why injectable steroids are in an oil solution. Fat is what provokes a hormonal response to build tissue.

One thing that I found with my weight gain though is that sticking to foods with their naturally occuring fat worked better than drowning my veggies with butter or drinking cream. You have to bear in mind that while I have a goal, I also have a physically demanding job. Drinking or eating straight fat just made me feel slow. The principal foods that I used to gain were whole milk, eggs, and nuts. While they're high fat foods, they never slowed me down.

One other tip that I can also give you is to make sure that you never, EVER feel hungry. If you feel hungry, you're not gaining. You might even be losing! This will probably entail eating 5-6 times a day. I told you this required discipline and I told you it wasn't easy.

As for my exericse, I tended to go with higher intensity, lower rep BW exercises as well as high intensity isometrics. Still, I think that high volume should be included, but to a lesser degree. The isometrics maintained my strength-to-Bodyeight ratio, the high intensity built the muscle, and the high volume maintained my versatility.

If you need more information or if you have questions, please feel free to post them. I'll address any further questions that you have now or in a future blog.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

When is it too late to get in shape?

Among the many things that I lose track of as I try to keep myself in good shape is how people can't get into shape because of some particular circumstance that just doesn't allow them to get there. I'm not going to deny that we all lead different lives and each of our lives presents a different set of hurdles of varying difficulties. Hurdles can be jumped and I have nothing but respect for those who do.

One of those hurdles is pregnancy. It's no secret that losing weight and staying shape after having children is a tall order. The physical changes to a woman's body combined with the long hours and constant attention that kids can be a death sentence for a program of physical training. I don't have kids yet but I've had newborns living with me for long stretches of time. It's a labor of love, emphasis on labor. Still, it can be done and Michelle Berger did it (issues with the blog, copy and paste the link)...

Getting into shape once you're older and been out of shape is high up on the list of life circumstance that spells doom for getting back into good shape. This guy did it so well that I think he was put on a Wheaties box along the way.

Then there is the question of maintaining motivation. Apparently that slips with time too. We accept the fact that as we get old, we'll lose energy and motivation. Someone forgot to tell this guy...

If you haven't gotten the idea yet that the time to get into shape isn't as limited as you think it is, I don't know what will convince you. I've said it a dozen times: it's about your mindset. It's about how bad you want it and if it's really worth it to you. I hope it is because there's no reason to accept the inevitability of a long, slow and painful physical decline into death. The body is capable of repairing itself to a point that will boggle the minds of experts for as long as humans exist. There's still time, make the most of it.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

"Muscle, Smoke and Mirrors", a Review

Randy Roach’s “Muscle, Smoke and Mirrors, Volume 1” was as long overdue to the fitness world as John Peterson’s “Isometric Power Revolution.” To the best of my knowledge, there hasn’t been a book as comprehensive about the origins of the iron game and physical culture’s nutritional history as this book is. I’ve been impatiently waiting for this book ever since I read Roach’s article on the Weston A Price Web site. When I got the book in my hands, it took me only 5 days to read the 500+-page novel. That isn’t to say that it’s wide spaced, large print easy reading. It’s absolutely enthralling and informative.

Randy does an impressive job of being, for the most part, non-biased. Even though he’s more of a bodybuilder, he is very even-handed in handing out praise and scorn over the movers and shakers of the physical culture world as it split into its rival factions of Weider, Hoffman, and Rader. His only apparent slip (as I see it anyway) is by labeling the Golden Age of Bodybuilding as essentially drug free, even though Bill Pearl, Dave Draper, Doug Howorth all admitted to using steroids. Judging by his writing, it’s hard for me not to conclude that these are the men that inspired him to start bodybuilding.

Randy also does a great job of interpreting the information that he gathered. One problem with studying history is that anyone can research, read, or study it. What is often lacking is the ability to draw a reasonable, truthful conclusion from what is analyzed. Randy generally didn’t have this problem.

Still, he could have done better at using his powers of interpretation to make more sense of the murkiness surrounding the advent of steroids in the iron game. While he shined light on the little known fact that the Germans and the Americans were synthesizing testosterone in the 1930’s and 1940’s, he was inconclusive about their use by weight lifters and bodybuilders during that time period. Personally, I think it’s unlikely because of the nasty side-effects some of those early brews had that Randy referenced(like the prostate enlargement problem).

Honestly, I’m a very picky person and overall, my criticisms should pale in comparison to what's good about this book. You’ll find out the sometimes scary origins of the foods that we eat today (did you know that hydrogenation was invented for CANDLES?). You’ll realize how big of a footprint that Bernarr McFadden left on physical culture and how his uneasy (at best) relationship with the AMA turned much of th medical establishment against strength training for a while. His emphasis may have been on nutritional history but he veers off into the personal histories of Rheo Blair, Vince Gironda, Joe Weider, and the formation of Muscle Beach. He addresses the history of homosexuality in bodybuilding. He finds the earliest reference to a low carb diet for weight loss. It's just downright stunning how much information that he managed to dig up.

It’s an interesting history and it deserved to be recorded. Randy Roach, so far, did and exceeded expectations. I can’t wait for volume 2.

The Fittest vs. The Fattest Cities

Apparently, determining which cities are in the best shape became a popular media hobby. Men’s Fitness made a list of the 10 Fittest and Fattest Cities in their ____, 2008 issue. Another media group, whose name eludes me, came up with their own list of the fittest and fattest cities in the United States. I personally think that MF’s list might be more accurate based on my travels. While I haven’t been to every city on the list, I did spot one noticeable trend amongst the fattest cities: All but one of them (Miami) was landlocked and flat. Almost all of the 10 fittest cities on the list were near bodies of water or near mountainous areas.

Now, this didn’t factor into MF’s decision-making criteria so it seems to me that this isn’t coincidence. My own travels validate this. I see a lot more fat people when the terrain is of no challenge to the human body, even in this age of mechanization. Another thing that I notice is that there are two kinds of cities: Cities that go out and cities that go up. The latter is expensive, complicated and only happens when space is at a premium. When city space is at a premium, the use of cars is discouraged. This happens more near mountains and bodies of water. So, people walk more.

I don’t expect you to move to one of these cities in order to improve your health. Actually, I don’t even encourage you to live in a city if you are. Still, I think that there some interesting insights that we can use to learn how get and stay fit. The terrain that we’re surrounded by has an impact on how fit we are. So, try to use it to your advantage. If you happen to live in the heartland, this certainly doesn’t mean that your home is a deathbed for physical activity. Just be aware of the shortcomings that your home presents to you and learn to work with them.

Would You Agree With This Statement?

I’m not disagreeing with the notion that weight-based strength training doesn’t produce great results. I’d be the most willfully ignorant human being blogging about fitness if I believed that. People get healthy and strong with weights all the time and have since antiquities. That’s not what I’m disputing at all. What I am disputing is that you can’t get strong without weights. That is what irritates me.

The truth is that you can get strong with no other resistance other than what you can generate with your own body. Just because it hasn’t gotten the attention that weights received over the past 8 decades doesn’t mean that it’s an illegitimate form of strength training.

Now, every form of strength training has inherent risk of injury. That is true for bodyweight-based and weight-based strength training. On the other hand, I think that the risk of injury is greater on the latter. Often times, weight-based strength trainers are more interested in things outside of the health of the body. As far as some are concerned, the ability to hoist more iron off the racks is the only test of health that matters. To others, it's the ability to make the muscles bigger is what counts the most. There's more life and strength training than these visceral pleasures.

BW-based strength training is different. It’s evolved into a more holistic and comprehensive approach to health and strength that’s more devoid of ego than weight-based strength training has devolved to. This isn’t to say that weight-based strength training couldn’t be a more complete package. It’s just the way things have gone in the past 55 years. This is where my statement about weight training has come from:

“I have no problem with weight training other than weights cost money and they’re hard to travel with. I have a problem with weight lifters, however.”

In the end, your health and strength is a result of your habits. Since you can do BW-based strength training without anything other than your body, it’s an overall superior method of strength training than weights.

So, what do you think?

Saturday, July 5, 2008

"You're Only as Strong as Your Weakest Link"

It’s an annoying cliché uttered by irritatingly positive people but there is only one little problem: It’s true. It also applies to your body. People have this tendency to fall in love with specific body parts and disregard other parts of the body (Ususally anything you can see in a mirror). Then there’s also the problem with people not knowing about these muscles. They may not even think about them.

That is until they get sore. You may get thrown into a situation where you work these muscles when you previously hadn’t. I know this because it happened to me not too long ago. I got back to doing some serious hard labor and although I routinely exercise, life had a way of finding the weak points in my skeletal muscle.

The first one is embarrassing because I’ve written about it so many times: The lower back (or the Erector Spinale). Strength in the lower back is critical for overall health. The back. Frankly, this was a case of simple neglect. I hadn’t made a concentrated effort to make sure that I was throwing in bridging work on a more regular basis. It can be easy to forget because it’s not seen in a mirror and it doesn’t really impress girls at the beach. Neither is being weak. Don’t forget this key muscle in your body. It can be a painful mistake.

While the muscles on the front of the ankle are visible in a mirror, most don't give them a thought. I hadn’t until I started climbing up the hills that are all over my last job in Pennsylvania . These muscles lifts up your foot and the higher that you lift your foot, the more grip you can get on the elevated ground. If you don’t, then you may resort to bending your knees in positions that can cause pain. I know this because I saw a co-worker walk up hills with his feet twisted sideways to get a better foot grip. His knees ached at the end of the day. You can avoid this by doing Hindu and sissy squats as well as isometrics for this muscle.

Just remember that the health of your body depends on proper tension across the muscles. If you have weakness or excessive strength on one muscle, you can compromise the entire structure. So make sure that you exercise your muscles thoroughly. Try different exercises, mix it up, and move freely without pain.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

My Take on Push-Ups Using...

I’ve said in the past that you can tell how long the push-up has been around by the sheer variety of variations on the standard push-up there are out there. In the past, I’ve gone through variations by modifying the position of the feet, hands and the height that the push-up is executed at. Now, I’m going to tackle the gagetry. There are a lot of items out there that you can do push-ups on to change the focus of the exercise and they run the gamut in difficulty.

The first one that I met are bars. The idea behind these is they give you a few extra inches of height. These allow you to descend farther down below your hands, giving your chest muscles more activation on the downward and upward motion. Some also complain about wrist pain when doing push-ups on their hands. Bars can solve this by straightening out your wrist. Bars are nice because they are usually pretty small and easy to travel with in a suitcase.

Moving up the ladder of difficulty is the relatively new Perfect Pushup Device. These rotating handles hit the shoulders more intensely because they allow you to move the shoulder muscles in a more natural way that hits them harder. You should expect to drop your number of repetitions by a third, minimum. Plus, they give you the extra height that bars have so you also get the increased chest activation. So, the drop in reps isn’t a bad thing because the exercise is more effectively working the chest and shoulders. I was skeptical about the Perfect Pushup when they first came out. Now, I’m such a fan that I have the standard model as well as the travel version.

The next two are difficult, advanced devices that will really give you some serious challenges. The first one (and the one that I have more experience with) are rings. Initially I made my rings for pull-ups but the allure of the instability drove me to add some longer rope, get the rings closer to the ground, and try out push-ups on them. What I found was probably the most effective way to put the focus of the push-up on the chest muscles. The extra height combined with the constant need to pull the rings inward while descending downward and upward hits all of the chest muscles like no other push-up device can. A rigid core is important too.

The newest piece of push-up equipment that's I've been working with are T-shaped handles. These delightfully nasty objects demand a high level of core tension to stabilize the body upon descent as well as some seriously strong arms and forearms to keep the handles from rolling in the hands. I've also noticed that they've helped my rep counts on pull-ups, particularly the towel pull-ups that I'm so fond of.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Fat Bug?

You have to love scientists. They’ve been trying to uncover the medical reason why people are fat. Of course, fat people have to love this. After all, it wouldn’t be their fault that they’re fat. They have some kind of medical condition. Therefore, they need medical treatment. The medical industry must love this too. Then, they can sell the treatment to obesity. Irresponsibility and dishonesty is a money-making combination that’s made in heaven (or hell, depending on how you look at it).

The concept of bacteria or viral-induced obesity has floated around for, to the best of my recollection, at least ten years. Scientists know that certain bugs (like certain strains of the flu) causing weight gain in humans and other animals. The theory goes that one in particular that causes weight gain.

Another theory has to do with low thyroid function. The thyroid gland is a part of the endocrine system located in your neck above your collar bone. It’s hormone release provokes metabolism. So, if this chunk of meat doesn’t squirt enough metabo-juice into your bloodstream, you don’t burn carbs and fat. Therefore you get fatter.

What’s most irksome about these is that they’re used as reasons or excuses (is there a difference?) for being fat. They’re reasons for being more prone to getting fat. If there is a fat bug or if a person has low thyroid function (BTW, I’ve heard that being obese suppresses thyroid function, so being fat precedes low thyroid, not the other way around.) then all this means is you’ll be more sensitive to gaining weight. Your behaviors and habits will still determine if you gain weight or not. Think about this: Richard Blackman of F.I.T fame ( had a sudden drop in thyroid function tomorrow, do you think that he’d gain 50 lbs with the way he eats?

If you’re fat, then you need to realize that you may have underlying issues with your body that make it easier to gain weight. Everyone burns calories at different rates. I could easily less healthy than I do and still keep my flat stomach. I have a friend who, after two kids, can’t eat bad two days in a row without noticing a weight gain. Remember what I just said, these are reasons for being sensitive, not reasons for being fat. Your lifestyle choices still count.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Weight lifters that I follow

No, I'm not weight lifting and I'm not planning on doing it in the near future for already-stated reasons. Still, there are people who use weights for strength training that I listen to intently. There is a core truth(s) to all strength training that everyone can benefit from, even if you don't follow all of the protocols that the teacher does. So, in no particular order, these are the weight lifters that I've learned some very valuable lessons from:

1. George Jowett. He might be my favorite physical culture writer. You would be hard-pressed to find a better author. He was an amazing writer and had a stunningly good grip on how the body works, even by today's standards and he was born 110 years ago! His teachings were based on some sound facts and a healthy dose of common sense that you can't find very often.

He was also very aware of the importance and the ability to strengthen the muscles through intense concentration of the mind. Much of his training consisted of using light weights while consciously contracting his muscles. He used the weight as a way to focus the contraction, not to provide the contraction itself. His anvil lift is a stunning testament to his training methods. What's also interesting was the respect that he garnered from his peers. His insistance on proper focus on the exercise in oder to build the muscles is as relevant to lifting weights as it is for doing push-ups.

2. Mike Boyle. As far as many (most?) strength trainers are concerned, the body is nothing more than muscles. They fail to realize that there are bones, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. I think that this is who so many injure themselves. There are things that you can do for your muscles that will injure these structures. There's more to your body than just your muscles. Mike Boyle doesn't forget this. As a trainer to professional athletes, it's his job to make sure that they are strong and injury-free. He takes joint health, tendons, ligaments, etc into consideration when he trains someone. Strength is more than meat. It's also interesting to note that he considers push-ups to be superior health and strength builders to the bench press.

3. Vince Gironda. I would have had a much harder time gaining the 23 lbs of muscle on my body had I not found some of Vince Gironda's writings. When you read his ideas, it's easy to see that he had a keen understanding of nutrition and its importance in gaining lean body mass. I would have thought that the amount of steak and eggs he ate was insane but the truth is that you need fat in your diet if you're going to get bigger. Sure, you build muscle out of protein but your body doesn't get the signal to do anything with it until hormones get released telling the body to do so. Hormones are fat-based compounds. This is the key to gaining muscle that you don't hear very much. It's what I used to gain my muscles.

It just goes to show that you can learn something from anything or anyone. I'll continue to look even to weight-based strength trainers for some sound advice on how to get strong and healthy. Sometimes they don't have anything to offer. Other times, they have that one exercise or piece of advice that will take me to the next level.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Get Some Variety!

We probably couldn’t even begin to count the number of bodybuilders who’ve lived on boneless, skinless chicken breast and steamed rice or the amount of time those same bodybuilders spend eating such a diet. It’s not just bodybuilders that disregard the importance of a diversified diet. Many who are trying to lose weight or get into shape cling to a few foods and don’t eat anything else than that one or two meals.

Eating a lot of different foods is what we’re designed to do through evolution. One of the current theories about what drove monkeys to humans was the conversion of jungle to grassland. As this occurred, these primates learned to walk from jungle to jungle and had to eat whatever they came across. This is probably why we became omnivorous: When there’s little around to eat, they couldn’t be picky. So we evolved to eat a lot of different foods.

This evolution is now a necessity. We need a lot of different chemicals (both phyto- and zoo-) to function at an optimum level. This is where heavily oversimplified diets do us wrong. We don't get that diversity that we need to function properly. This trickles down to weight loss too. The better our bodies are nourished, the better they will break down the incoming foods. So make sure that you're getting a lot of different foods in your system.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Exercise vs Nutrition? WTF?

Judging by the title of my blog, I’m more of an exercise-oriented guy than a nutrition guy. In matters of health and fitness, people tend to break more in one direction than the other. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to see a nutritionist ignore exercise or a personal trainer ignore good nutrition. I may be more of about exercise than nutrition but I don’t ignore the overwhelming importance of good nutrition in my quest to stay healthy and get stronger.

I’ve seen many who look at eating shit food as a reward for their physical efforts at the gym. I’ve seen those who just flat out ignore good eating even if they’re involved in some sort of sport or physical activity. These are both cases of people’s perception not matching the reality of the situation. When you eat junk food, you’re taking the good results of your hard work and flushing it down the toilet to a certain extent. In other words, if you did a 30 minute strength training session, you just gave back 10-15 minutes of that workout. Granted that some are different than others and handle the cheat much better than others but it’s still a set-back to your efforts.

This isn’t something that you can’t argue with. I don’t make these rules because they’re nature’s law. The food that you eat is what your body has to make tissue with. The exercise that you do is the directive action that constructs what you’ve eaten. Eating poorly is like building a skyscraper out of sod. Not exercising is like taking quality concrete and building a chicken coop out of it. You need both to make a healthy and strong body.

Friday, May 30, 2008

What makes exercises dangerous?

I've received a lot of criticism for stating that certain exercises are bad or dangerous. I've repeatedly say that I think that the weighted deadlift isn't a good exercise. I've come down harshly on some kettlebell exercises too. I hear people talk about things that could go wrong with even bodyweight exercises that could make them potentially dangerous too.

Let's just state the obvious: Any exercise can be dangerous. If you slip and lose the proper form when performing any exercise, if you do an exercise that is too advanced for you, or if you go too fast and lose control then you could injure yourself. Every physical endevour carries a risk of injury. So, what makes one safer than another?

In my not-humble, non-expert opinion, there are a few factors. One that comes to mind with the weighted deadlift is how close the exercise puts your lower back to a posture that could injure you (flexion of the lower back). If the back rounds even a little, then you could be walking away with a sore, injured back. The lower back muscles are made for extension, not flexion. When they flex, they get hurt! I'm not alone in my assesment on this one. Mike Boyle, a strength trainer for pro athletes, doesn't have his professional clients use the deadlift.

Other factors that come into play are exercises that create muscular imbalance. An exercise that overdevelops certain muscles create muscle imbalances that also lead to injury far too easily. The bench press is a prime example of this one. Granted someone could balance out the lack of serratus anterior and rhomboid work in the bench press with exercises such as the face pull but let me ask you this: why not just do pushups? That way the chest muscles get evenly build without doing two exercises. Plus, you don't need any gear to get the job done.

These are some of the reasons why I label some exercises bad or unsafe. They cross the line of risk vs. pay-off. Still, I'm not an expert and believe it or not I'm not trying to tell you what to do. If you want to do weighted deadlifts or bench presses, then do what you want. You don't need my permission or blessing. I'm just a guy making observations and suggestions. Just be careful, no matter what you do.

Beach Body?

I have many different things that interest me and they all have a common thread: If I enjoy it, I buy magazines devoted to it. I’m not really a fan of fitness magazines but I still buy them anyway. I may find more wrong with them than right with them but I don’t want to completely disregard them. You can learn something from just about anything. I've gotten in trouble more times that I'd like to admit from dismissing a "dubious" source. There’s usually one or two good pieces in fitness magazines that deliver some good information.

Then there are the articles that help get your “Beach Body.” Next to the new year, this time of the year seems to be the only time that anyone seriously cares about being in shape. The obvious implication is that you’ve slacked off through the winter and now that the summer is coming, you need to melt off the fat and tone up the muscles. After all, you can’t hide your body under a sweater anymore, there’s people to impress, and egos that need to remain intact.

What fries me about this beach body phenomenon are two things: the idea that a fit body is as seasonal as swimwear and the desire to be in shape for purely vain reasons. These are lousy attitudes that don’t do anything towards getting and keeping yourself in great shape. It’s not that they’re terrible reasons to exercise. However, by themselves, they’re woefully bad reasons. Do you ever think about living pain free? Or about how inactivity interferes with your mental function? Do you like being winded after swimming barely 300’? Do these reasons like this ever enter your mind? If they don’t, then you have a problem.

If you’re out of shape, then by all means, get yourself back into shape as fast as you can. Don’t just do it for the visceral reasons. You have every reason to get healthy and strong. Keep these in mind at all times and don’t let your body slip just because nobody else can see your body.